Mind & Matter


Harvesting Water from the Air

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The Air Drop water harvesting machine. Image by Edward Linacre.


For a young Australian inventor, pulling water out of thin air is the key to a more productive agricultural future. Edward Linacre, a Melbourne-based designer and graduate of the Swinburne University of Technology, has recently unveiled “Air Drop,” an ingenious irrigation system in which moisture is harvested from the air and stored underground.

Designed as a response to perpetual droughts in Australia, Air Drop utilizes a small turbine powered by solar cells to pull air below the soil, cooling it and causing its moisture to condense within an underground tank. The water is then pumped to crops via efficient drip-irrigation tubing.

Linacre received the 2011 James Dyson Award for his invention, which includes a monitoring system for tracking water levels and system pressure. The standalone apparatus holds promise not only for agricultural applications, but also for architecture. Although architects have focused on stormwater retention as the primary conservation measure, they have missed another good source of water—the air that surrounds their structures.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.